Garret Dillahunt meets “unique presence” Martha Plimpton in Leap

The initial COVID outbreak plays a part in Leap — both as a narrative element and as a reason for being in the Amazon Freevee comedy, which premieres August 19.

“This one was a pandemic creation,” said the series star Garret Dillahuntwho is also executive producer of “Jump,” reuniting him with fellow Raising Hope co-star Martha Plimpton and the creator of that series, Gregory Garcia (“My Name Is Earl”, “Yes, Dear”, “The Guest Book”).

“It was 2020 and I was like, ‘When was the last time I enjoyed a show?’ And it was on “Raising Hope”. So I called Greg and said, ‘Let’s do something.’ I didn’t know what, but I knew what kind of guy I wanted to be [in the show] so he had very little to do,” he said. “He probably had this idea for a while and kind of tinkered with it to fit what I was looking for and [to fit] the times.

“So that’s the best move a producer can take — having a friend who’s a better producer.”

Shakira Barrera, Martha Plimpton, Garret Dillahunt and James Earl in a scene from Leap.
Dennis Mong/Amazon Freevee

Dillahunt (“Fear the Walking Dead”, “Where the Crawdads Sing”, “The Mindy Project”) plays Jack, who is serving a 24-year sentence at the Slammer for a drug offense. He and his cellmate Hahn (Philip García), are among the prisoners of conscience who were freed when the pandemic first struck — and along with fellow inmate Gloria (Shakira Barrera), they move in with Barb (Plimpton), Rooster’s mother, a feral child, and eventually decide to use their criminal background for the greater good. Co-stars include Clare Gillies as Wiggles, Rooster’s ex-girlfriend, and James Earl as Melvin, her new boyfriend.

Kate Walsh, Susan Ruttan, Fred Grandy, Stefan Ogg and Chris Bauer are among the guest stars in the 10-episode series, which was filmed in and around Pittsburgh last year.

“Greg really wanted to shoot in Frostburg, Maryland, where he went to college,” said Dillahunt. “The series is set in a fictional town, Kimberton, named after Greg’s wife Kim. But there was no crew around and we would have had to ship and house the entire crew for the entire shoot and that just wasn’t financially viable, so we moved to Pittsburgh.

Photo of Garret Dillahunt and Phillip Garcia as Jack and Rooster. They sit outside of prison after their release; Jack wears white buttoned shorts; Hahn has a goatee and curly hair and wears a two-tone brown short-sleeved shirt.
Jack and his cellmate Rooster (Phillip Garcia) have just been released from prison.
Dennis Mong/Amazon Freevee

“There’s great tax incentives in Pennsylvania, but there’s also an amazing vibe in Pittsburgh — there’s something really cool to see in every direction you point the camera,” he said. “It was a steel city and there are a lot of workers and these ghosts and remnants… it was a wonderful place to shoot.”

His role behind the camera — as executive producer along with Garcia, Michael Rotenberg and Jonathan Berry — gave him a new appreciation for the work that goes into the job, Dillahunt said.

“Often actors are producers, but it’s like, ‘Yeah, but he really hasn’t [do much].’ I’m not a writing producer, but I’ve been involved on a day-to-day basis [stuff] and Greg gave me a lot of responsibility – we picked the cast together and I had a lot of input on notes and took a lot off his plate,” he said. “Greg directed every episode and we did all 10 at once – like one giant movie… I felt like there was a pretty good connection between the cast, Greg and Amazon.

“I’ll admit, when I started, I thought, ‘I’ll show you how to make a TV show, it doesn’t have to be that hard.’ And I had to call a few producers after it was done and apologize for past behavior. I thought, ‘You know what? Aha. I get it now.'”

Photo of Martha Plimpton and Garret Dillahunt in a scene from their old Fox sitcom, "Rising Hope." They both lean over and make funny faces in an office setting.
Martha Plimpton and Garret Dillahunt in their Fox sitcom, Raising Hope, which aired from 2010 to 2014 and was created by Greg Garcia.

Most importantly, Dillahunt said working with Plimpton was the icing on the cake.

“She’s a really unique presence in my life,” he said. “I’ve worked with her more than any other actor in my career. I found out: We did about 33 films together over the course of Raising Hope. [2010-2014 on Fox] and she was in one [episode of] ‘The Guest Book’ [which aired on TBS] and now 10 episodes of ‘Jump.’ She is unable to be non-human even under the most explosive of circumstances. It didn’t feel like we needed to get anything back — it felt like home, like a natural continuation … hearing her voice say the words — 50 percent of the comedy is Barb — hearing her repeat it over and over again getting to the point, different each shot was such a relief.”

. Garret Dillahunt meets “unique presence” Martha Plimpton in Leap

Emma Bowman

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